LSAT Secretary, SIT Member, Parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan
Chancellor Ferebee, thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am Danica Petroshius a DCPS parent for the last 12 years. My children both started at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan at age 3 and now they are a 7th grader at CHML and a 9th grader at School Without Walls. I love DCPS and what it has to offer and we love our all-8-wards citywide school and its students, parents, grandparents teachers, staff and principals. I have or do serve on the LSAT, SIT, PTSO and many committees – I’m here for the work it takes for a school to make do in DCPS.
But I am tired – not tired enough to be silent – but tired. But, you haven’t worn me down yet. I have been through: a crumbling, rodent-infested, sewage-leaking, overcrowded building; a school budget that had us budgeted at 40+ students per class; ignoring the needs of our Montessori educators; a lack of computers when remote learning opened; lead in the water – I thought you had thrown our school every obstacle and barrier to success that we could imagine. But, here we are again. If it weren’t for the amazing community I am part of every day and the forever hope that I hold dear that DCPS does want to do the right thing for students – I would not be here today. I continue to believe in DCPS and on behalf of the 423 students at CHML today – and the many more to come – I ask you to develop a budget for FY24 that right-sizes support for our them.
CHML needs $1 MILLION this year to right-size our budget this school year (SY22-23) according to the DCPS current budget model. This means that CHML is short 8-9 staffing positions. We are well under adequate and equitable funding right now.
Here are the facts:
- This school year, DCPS insisted we would only have 396 enrolled students and set the FY23 budget accordingly. This was an increase in enrollment, but not where we would be. Our LSAT told you that it would be more than 400 but you insisted we were wrong. Guess what – on enrollment count day we clocked in at 423 which mean our CURRENT budget underfunds us by 27 students.
- In addition, the FY23 budget that you did hand us significantly CUT our funds despite increases in enrollment anticipated to 396 (not counting the undercount we suffer from now). The ONLY reason we didn’t have to cut staff is because of the one-time emergency pandemic funds that held us harmless.
- We are an education campus – and we, like the other education campuses – are systematically ignored and underfunded on top of the basic budget underfunding. We have to run a PK, elementary and middle school on a budget for an elementary school. Each CHML specials teacher has to teach 11 grades – one art teacher, one music teacher and one Spanish teacher that must learn how to teach content for all grades in PK, elementary and middle school. This is an impossible task that they are juggling. In addition, our school has only 1 specialized science teacher for 11 grades. And, CHML has only one ELA and Math teacher for grades 6, 7 and 8. Stand-alone middle schools do not operate at such understaffed levels particularly as DCPS middle school, grade-level content becomes highly specialized. We know that education campuses across the city are systematically ignored in many ways – most recently in the new budget modeling. When DCPS presented the new budget model to our LSAT last Spring, we were presented an elementary model. We asked what the model was for an education campus and we were met with shrugs. This is unacceptable.
While our amazing teachers and school leadership make it work on a shoestring – with the help of our strong parent community – it’s not right.
CHML parents ask for 3 things:
- (1) Give us additional funding now to allow us to hire staff to address the shortfall in the current budget
- In FY24, (2) fully fund our middle school and (3) give us the full $1 million increase plus that we deserve in your own budget model.
One additional note: if the work of my fellow parent to come up with the $1 million shortfall is not exactly accurate, then sit down with us and show us why. The smoke and mirrors and lack of transparency in the budget is unacceptable. Any parent should be able to read your budget model and determine how much funding a school should get. If we read the budget model and plug in the numbers and we get a different number than you – then tell us what “judgements” or “special considerations” you made about our school to provide us lower funding. We deserve to know why DCPS historically – and still continues to – underfund us according to the budget model, deny us funding matching our actual enrollment, and ignoring the needs of our middle schoolers.
CHML is one example of a successful education campus – exceeding enrollment this year again and helping students get into neighborhood and application high schools that they desire. Fund and pay attention to all of education campuses so that all students get the support they need to succeed.